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Aviation Centennial Coin Series Honors Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Houdini

Picture of coins, designed by Alex Shagin:

A set of four silver coins has been issued to commemorate the Centennial of Aviation. The theme-coin features the Wright Brothers' biplane and a futuristic space plane circling the earth. The other three coins depict aviation pioneers, along with their airplanes. Featured are Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose historic flight was made on December 17, 1903; Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927; and an unsung pioneer -- Houdini, the great magician -- who made the first sustained flight in Australia on March 16, 1910.

The feats of the Wright Brothers and Lindbergh are well known, but Houdini's historic flight is all but forgotten today. An article in "The Leader" (March 26, 1910) vividly described the events that took place at Diggers Rest, about 30 km. north-west of Melbourne:

"In his first attempt Houdini sent his machine tearing across the paddock at a tremendous speed, the biplane rising in less than a hundred yards. Just as it rose the machine swerved straight for a solid gum tree, and the hearts of the onlookers beat fast as they saw disaster - perhaps death - right in the track. Mechanically the aviator moved the elevating lever, and the biplane skimmed over the tree like a bird. A complete circle of the paddock was made at about 50 miles an hour, and the descent was accomplished with perfect ease and gracefulness. To land, Houdini flew low, stopped the engine, and sailed easily and gently to earth on the momentum of the machine. A second and more successful flight was then made at a height of 100 feet, when the machine was kept flying for nearly five minutes. Altogether Houdini covered a distance of about seven miles."

The Voison biplane, which at 1400 pounds (including pilot) was then one of the largest heavier-than-air machines made, is also pictured on the new Houdini coin; while the Wright Brothers' biplane, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and a futuristic space plane are depicted on the other three coins in this Aviation Centennial Series, issued by the Republic of Liberia.

The official issue price of the 1 oz. pure silver $10 face value proof coins is $39.95 each, and there is a limit of 1,000 4-coin proof sets available for $139. Orders should be sent to the exclusive distributor PandaAmerica, 3460 Torrance Blvd., Suite 100, Torrance, CA 90503. Credit card orders can be placed by calling (800) 472-6327 or e-mailing info@pandaamerica.com. Add $5.50 per order for shipping.

Prepared by Mel Wacks on December 16, 2003.

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